I crawl underneath a 100-year-old house to inspect its sinking foundation. Built on post and pier a century ago, its footings are settling into the sand. Beneath the floorboards the foreman points out the rotting posts and the unstable footings. Already afraid, with my chin to the damp dirt and remains of vermin and creature droppings inches below my nose, I back out slowly on hands and knees, worry hanging over me as heavy as this leaning structure that could crush me at any moment. I am desperate to get out of this dark and unstable space.
A week later the construction crew arrives, laden with plywood and beams.
Rotting wood must be replaced with fresh timber to support the weight of the cottage.
Things must be deconstructed before they are reconstructed.
Not until then can new footings and fresh concrete be poured for a new foundation.
I peer underneath to observe the progress. When they are done forming and smoothing the footings they lay the cornerstone. I ask the foreman if I can etch something into the concrete mud. He calls me over. I pick up a stray nail and scratch this into the concrete: Isaiah 28:16.
“What does that mean?” he asks me.
I tell him, “It’s a verse in the Bible about a cornerstone.”
Aligned to the Cornerstone.
A few days later, the crew comes back to level the house. For not until the foundation is righted and the cornerstone is laid can they raise the structure back to a stable position. They expect to raise the house about 1 ½ inches. After much creaking and groaning, the little wooden cottage is raised six inches.
No other work could be done to repair the structure until the foundation was restored. After that the house could be leveled to align with the cornerstone. Only then could the windows be adjusted, the doorframes reset, and the cabinets rebuilt and installed.
As I peered under the house to watch them reconstruct the pillars of this cottage, God whispered to me: I am doing the same thing in your life.
All that had been my footing and foundation was being torn down and reassembled. My mother had passed away just a month before. My children had emptied the nest the year before. Old relationships were transitioning, new ones were being formed. The Christian circle that had been my safety net unraveled bit by bit. Just as storms and wind and rain and time wore down the foundation of this cottage, my own faith was being worn down by the elements: storms of the grief of losing loved ones, discouragement in the church, tension living among those skeptical of “Christians,” disillusionment in relationships, isolation by choice was also heightened by the start of a pandemic, and questions over my own place, ethnicity, and culture.
Restoring the foundation of this cottage became the metaphor for restoring the foundation of my faith:
Rotting posts of harsh words and bitterness.
Unstable footings from lack of trust.
Ill-fitting windows distorting my outlook.
Floors slanting downward instead of holding me level.
None of these elements could be rebuilt until the foundation was rebuilt.
A Foundation built on two timbers
The foundation of our faith is two fallen timbers that intersect in the middle into the shape of a cross.
All the elements that pound on our roof and rattle the windows and blow down the door cannot shake us when our foundation is established on the timbers of the cross. There is too much noise and too much distraction attempting to knock down our foundation.
Lofty words and theories and movements will not hold us up; only the truth of the Bible and the understanding of the cross.
The timbers that held up the One who lifts us up from the dark and dank and destructive places that surround us is our one true support. We are all broken people in need of a firm foundation.
I cannot let the elements of bitterness and discouragement and disillusionment in the church and in others fracture my foundation.
It has to be on Jesus alone,
on two timbers formed in the shape of the cross.
That foundation alone can support me against any elements that threaten my security.
He alone is my dwelling place and shelter.
It can be a lonely place. It does not mean we remain solitary.
But we need to come to a place
where resting on the precious cornerstone
where aligning our vision
our purpose are aligned to his word alone.
Not the theories or thoughts or opinions of others,
but the ones formed on our own personal foundation of faith in Jesus Christ.
Reconstruction prepares a new stance.
The reconstruction of the cottage could not begin until the foundation was rebuilt and made level.
Once leveled, new building could begin.
A few verses after the cornerstone verse in Isaiah, God speaks of the new crop,
When he has leveled its surface,
does he not scatter dill, sow cumin,
and put in wheat in rows
and barley in its proper place,
and emmer as the border?
In Hebrew, sava, means to make even, flat, lay smoothly.
The same word for level is used in this much cherished verse:
He made (level) my feet like the feet of a deer
and set me secure on the heights.
2 Samuel 22:34
Once our foundation is level, we are secure.
Able to stand against the elements
Able to stand on the heights.
A Conversation between two generations
Recently I sat on the porch with a friend and her two daughters. Two generations of women raised in the Christian faith. I have known these daughters since they were toddlers. They attended a Christian school with my children. They attended prestigious colleges. I observed their mother sending them out to various corners of the world. And them returning to the beginning place, our back porch at home, the place of many conversations and discussions over the years. One girl opens up about her process of “reconstructing faith.”
This young woman whom I have taught Bible stories and lessons to over the past 20 years explains to me her process of deconstructing and rebuilding her childhood faith to fit the challenges of her culture, yet remaining steadfast to the Jesus she fell in love with as a child.
And I realize though we are generations apart, we are women doing the same thing. Seeking ways in our shifting world to be women that can make the Jesus we love relevant to the needs we perceive.
This Jesus is the one who died for us on two timbers formed in the shape of a cross.
These wooden beams hold us up in a changing world.
The words this Jesus spoke as well as the words preceding and prophesying about him are the footings of this foundation.
The words we may learn as a child, but become disillusioned with as an adult.
Restore means to return to the original. To go back to the basics.
The elements of this world can bear down and try to beat down the foundation of the two timbers of the cross.
But this foundation was designed to stand firm,
aligned to the cornerstone.